Morgans spread Irish cheer at concert
Irena Pastorello/The Middletown Press
By JIM HICKEY, Middletown Press Staff March 10, 2003
MIDDLETOWN -- After sticking together for the better part of three decades, members of the folk band, The Morgans, have learned to laugh at their longevity.
"We’ve been around so long, we were on a first name basis with Adam," joked band member Tom Callinan to the audience attending a special concert in the auditorium of the Middletown High School. "In case you’re wondering folks, we do have some of our old Edison cylinder records still available for sale."
While The Morgans have changed some members since their formation in 1971, the current core group of members has been in place for several years.
The band has been booked as the opening act for such groups as the Irish Rovers and the Clancy Brothers with Robbie O’Connell, and is also widely regarded as one of the premiere local bands specializing in traditional folk songs, sea-sings and chanteys, and folk-revival songs.
The band has also written and recorded a number of contemporary environmental songs to help save the whales and the earth.
"We really perform a wide range of songs," noted band member Tony Morris. "All of us are also able to play several different instruments during our performances."
This diversification of musical talents was on full display at Sunday’s concert, as band members routinely switched instruments, often during the middle of a song. The eclectic mix of instruments included guitars, harmonicas, violins, fiddles, spoons, banjos and the accordion -- just to name a few.
The concert was meant to be a showcase for all things Irish, as a means to celebrate the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day.
The Morgans masterfully played Irish favorites like ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’, ‘Marry Mary Mack’ and ‘The Sky Boat Song,’ and at many times had many in the packed crowd singling along and stamping their feet.
Band member Don Sineti, a founding member who has been with the band for 32 years, took time to give a brief history lesson on the Irish and their role in helping to build the infrastructure of the United States.
"The Irish worked on America’s railways, they dug the canals, and they worked in the coal mines. And often, they would sing the sea shanties they brought from Ireland while they worked, often when they weren’t even working on the sea," said Sineti.
The band then broke into a rousing rendition of the sea shanty ‘Patty Works on the Railway,’ which had many in the audience singing along to the lines "fiddle me, ora-ora-aay, fiddle me ora-ora-ay."
After the concert, members of the band conceded that the band did not have deep Irish roots, and only a few of the band’s six members were part Irish. But from the sound of things during the concert, you would have thought you were listening to a band of musicians straight from the streets of Belfast or Dublin.
Chris Morgan, another founding member, noted that a number of Celtic and traditional Irish instruments were used during Sunday’s concert, including the Bodhron (a hand-held drum), the Irish bagpipes, the Limberjack and the fife.
"You might see some type of jam session like the one here today over in Ireland. Just a group of musicians gathering on the streets or in a pub to play music. That is what we hoped to accomplish here today," said Morgan.
Morgan said there are common themes in most Irish folk music -- like being separated from a loved one while at sea, or strong feelings of patriotism -- which usually evict a strong emotional reaction to the crowd.
That was evident during the band’s last number on Sunday. When Callinan asked the audience what song they would like to hear to close out the set, several people shouted out without hesitation "Danny Boy!!, Danny Boy!!."
The favorite might be the most well-known and well-covered Irish folk ballad, but the band really made the number their own.
The sound of the Irish pipes, the strings of a violin, a guitar and a wind flute mixed together into a sound as crisp and clear as the winds over the Emerald Isle itself, which moved many in the audience to tears.
"All six of us don’t always get to play together, so it was wonderful to be able to come here today and be able to play such fabulous Irish music in front of such a warm crowd," noted Callinan.
Callinan, in fact, is no stranger to Middletown High School. He was born and raised in Middletown, and graduated from Middletown High before joining The Morgans.
Back in 1991, Callinan became Connecticut’s first "official state troubadour," and has since gone on to became a successful folk singer, storyteller, multi-instrumentalist, sea chantey-man and environmentalist.
But it was apparent that Callinan was enjoying being back in his old stomping grounds on Sunday. While answering questions during a break, Callinan was approached by a man he used to deliver newspapers to when he was a child, and was also greeted by several people he went school with.
"It’s always good to come home," he said with a smile.
To contact Jim Hickey, call (860) 347-3331 ext. 221, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
©The Middletown Press 2003